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November 2019

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54orthonormal3moDeepMind released their AlphaStar paper a few days ago [https://deepmind.com/blog/article/AlphaStar-Grandmaster-level-in-StarCraft-II-using-multi-agent-reinforcement-learning] , having reached Grandmaster level at the partial-information real-time strategy game StarCraft II over the summer. This is very impressive, and yet less impressive than it sounds. I used to watch a lot of StarCraft II (I stopped interacting with Blizzard recently because of how they rolled over for China), and over the summer there were many breakdowns of AlphaStar games once players figured out how to identify the accounts. The impressive part is getting reinforcement learning to work at all in such a vast state space- that took breakthroughs beyond what was necessary to solve Go and beat Atari games. AlphaStar had to have a rich enough set of potential concepts (in the sense that e.g. a convolutional net ends up having concepts of different textures) that it could learn a concept like "construct building P" or "attack unit Q" or "stay out of the range of unit R" rather than just "select spot S and enter key T". This is new and worth celebrating. The overhyped part is that AlphaStar doesn't really do the "strategy" part of real-time strategy. Each race has a few solid builds that it executes at GM level, and the unit control is fantastic, but the replays don't look creative or even especially reactive to opponent strategies. That's because there's no representation of causal thinking - "if I did X then they could do Y, so I'd better do X' instead". Instead there are many agents evolving together, and if there's an agent evolving to try Y then the agents doing X will be replaced with agents that do X'. (This lack of causal reasoning especially shows up in building placement, where the consequences of locating any one building here or there are minor, but the consequences of your overall SimCity are major for how your units and your opponents' units would fare if they attacked you. In one
21Chris_Leong2moHegel - A Very Short Introduction by Peter Singer - Book Review Part 1: Freedom Hegel is a philosopher who is notorious for being incomprehensible. In fact, for one of his books he signed a contract that assigned a massive financial penalty for missing the publishing deadline, so the book ended up being a little rushed. While there was a time when he was dominant in German philosophy, he now seems to be held in relatively poor regard and his main importance is seen to be historical. So he's not a philosopher that I was really planning to spend much time on. Given this, I was quite pleased to discover this book promising to give me A Very Short Introduction, especially since it is written by Peter Singer, a philosopher who write and thinks rather clearly. After reading this book, I still believe that most of what Hegel wrote was pretentious nonsense, but the one idea that struck me as the most interesting was his conception of freedom. A rough definition of freedom might be ensuring that people are able to pursue whatever it is that they prefer. Hegel is not a fan abstract definitions of freedom which treat all preferences the same and don't enquire where they come from. In his perspective, most of our preferences are purely a result of the context in which we exist and so such an abstract definition of freedom is merely the freedom to be subject to social and historical forces. Since we did not choose our desires, he argues that we are not free when we act from our desires. Hegel argues that, "every condition of comfort reveals in turn its discomfort, and these discoveries go on for ever". One such example would be the marketing campaigns to convince us that sweating was embarrassing ( https://www.smithsonianmag.com/…/how-advertisers-convinced…/ [https://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.smithsonianmag.com%2Fhistory%2Fhow-advertisers-convinced-americans-they-smelled-bad-12552404%2F%3Ffbclid%3DIwAR1KKh3gEJiwroC7b-Nooykui6_CBL2CsR-zaR-9ExSir591OYpM7ImwWb8&h
15Ruby2moWhy I'm excited by the 2018 Review I generally fear that perhaps some people see LessWrong as a place where people just read and discuss "interesting stuff", not much different from a Sub-Reddit on anime or something. You show up, see what's interesting that week, chat with your friends. LessWrong's content might be considered "more healthy" relative to most internet content and many people say they browse LessWrong to procrastinate but feel less guilty about than other browsing, but the use-case still seems a bit about entertainment. None of the above is really a bad thing, but in my mind, LessWrong is about much more than a place for people to hang out and find entertainment in sharing joint interests. In my mind, LessWrong is a place where the community makes collective progress on valuable problems. It is an ongoing discussion where we all try to improve our understanding of the world and ourselves. It's not just play or entertainment– it's about getting somewhere. It's as much like an academic journal where people publish and discuss important findings as it is like an interest-based sub-Reddit. And all this makes me really excited by the LessWrong 2018 Review [http://lesswrong]. The idea of the review is to identify posts that have stood the test of time and have made lasting contributions to the community's knowledge and meaningfully impacted people's lives. It's about finding the posts that represent the progress we've made. During the design of the review (valiantly driven by Raemon), I was apprehensive that people would not feel motivated by the process and put in the necessary work. But less than 24 hours after launching, I'm excited by the nominations [https://www.lesswrong.com/nominations] and what people are writing in their nomination comments. Looking at the list of nominations so far and reading the comments, I'm thinking "Yes! This is a list showing the meaningful progress the LW community has made. We are not just a news or entertainment site
14Daniel Kokotajlo2moIt seems to me that human society might go collectively insane sometime in the next few decades. I want to be able to succinctly articulate the possibility and why it is plausible, but I'm not happy with my current spiel. So I'm putting it up here in the hopes that someone can give me constructive criticism: I am aware of three mutually-reinforcing ways society could go collectively insane: 1. Echo chambers/filter bubbles/polarization: Arguably political polarization [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_polarization] is increasing across the world of liberal democracies today. Perhaps the internet has something to do with this--it’s easy to self-select into a newsfeed and community that reinforces and extremizes your stances on issues. Arguably recommendation algorithms have contributed to this problem in various ways--see e.g. “Sort by controversial” [https://slatestarcodex.com/2018/10/30/sort-by-controversial/] and Stuart Russell’s claims in Human Compatible. At any rate, perhaps some combination of new technology and new cultural or political developments will turbocharge this phenomenon. This could lead to civil wars, or more mundanely, societal dysfunction. We can’t coordinate to solve collective action problems relating to AGI if we are all arguing bitterly with each other about culture war issues.Deepfakes/propaganda/persuasion tools: Already a significant portion of online content is deliberately shaped by powerful political agendas--e.g. Russia, China, and the US political tribes. Much of the rest is deliberately shaped by less powerful apolitical agendas, e.g. corporations managing their brands or teenagers in Estonia making money by spreading fake news during US elections. Perhaps this trend will continue; technology like chatbots, language models, deepfakes, etc. might make it cheaper and more effective to spew this sort of propaganda, to the point where most onlin
12TurnTrout2moFrom my Facebook My life has gotten a lot more insane over the last two years. However, it's also gotten a lot more wonderful, and I want to take time to share how thankful I am for that. Before, life felt like... a thing that you experience, where you score points and accolades and check boxes. It felt kinda fake, but parts of it were nice. I had this nice cozy little box that I lived in, a mental cage circumscribing my entire life. Today, I feel (much more) free. I love how curious I've become, even about "unsophisticated" things. Near dusk, I walked the winter wonderland of Ogden, Utah with my aunt and uncle. I spotted this gorgeous red ornament hanging from a tree, with a hunk of snow stuck to it at north-east orientation. This snow had apparently decided to defy gravity. I just stopped and stared. I was so confused. I'd kinda guessed that the dry snow must induce a huge coefficient of static friction, hence the winter wonderland. But that didn't suffice to explain this. I bounded over and saw the smooth surface was iced, so maybe part of the snow melted in the midday sun, froze as evening advanced, and then the part-ice part-snow chunk stuck much more solidly to the ornament. Maybe that's right, and maybe not. The point is that two years ago, I'd have thought this was just "how the world worked", and it was up to physicists to understand the details. Whatever, right? But now, I'm this starry-eyed kid in a secret shop full of wonderful secrets. Some secrets are already understood by some people, but not by me. A few secrets I am the first to understand. Some secrets remain unknown to all. All of the secrets are enticing. My life isn't always like this; some days are a bit gray and draining. But many days aren't, and I'm so happy about that. Socially, I feel more fascinated by people in general, more eager to hear what's going on in their lives, more curious what it feels like to be them that day. In particular, I've fallen in love with the rationalist and
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